Buddha and Aum/Om Tattoo: Symbolism and Meaning

Many people consider Buddhism to be one of the world’s great religions, right up there with Christianity and Islam. But this is not strictly true as Buddhism is not a religion, despite what many people would have you believe.

It is often called the greatest self-help book ever written and though many people might worship Buddha, this is not the core of the spiritual practice.

The Origins of Buddhism

In 567 BC, a man called Siddhartha Gautama was born into a royal family near the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. His father ruled over a small kingdom and Prince Siddhartha had everything you could ever imagine in terms of luxury.

When Prince Siddhartha was born, a local Brahmin said that he would be one of two things: a king who would unite all of the separate people of India or a great spiritual teacher. Naturally, his father wanted him to rule as king in his place in time to come so he kept his son from the rest of the world.

However, one day Prince Siddhartha was outside of the walls of his palace and in the common streets of the town. He saw three things that changed the course of his life: a very old man, a very sick old man, and a dead body in the street.

This single event caused him to question his own reality; he realized that death comes to us all and that every human is the same.

The young prince also realized that suffering is the normal human condition. This realization sent him on a lifelong quest to see what he could do to end human suffering on earth.

To cut a long story short, Siddhartha Gautama turned away from his royal life completely and achieved enlightenment. From this point, he was known as Buddha, or enlightened one.

The Path of the Buddhist and the Noble Truths

Buddhism is really a philosophical system that is intended to help ease the suffering of all people. Buddha gained insight into what causes human suffering and devised methods to understand it and alleviate it.

By following the four noble truths and the eightfold path, every single person has the capacity to achieve personal enlightenment.

This also happens to be one of Buddhism’s greatest features: it is for everyone on the planet. There is no division of people into classes or castes, no judgement of a person, no demand to worship some out-of-reach divine being, and no separation by cultural origin.

When Siddhartha Gautama went to work to find ways to understand and alleviate human suffering, he was also coming up with a great work of philosophy in terms of how to live a good life.

Buddhism is founded on the four noble truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering, and the truth of the path to end suffering.

These ideas can be complex but they each address different methods of identifying, dealing with, and ending suffering.

It’s important to note that Buddha himself did not expect that everyone would achieve enlightenment. Following the Buddhist path is difficult and requires lots of self-discipline.

Buddha said that the most important thing for anyone, whether they achieve enlightenment or not, is to simply follow the path.

The Lotus Flower

The lotus flower is an especially important symbol in Buddhism. The lotus grows in water and its life is one of growing through mud and muddy water. Once it breaks the surface of the water, it blossoms into one of the most beautiful flowers in the world.

Buddha realized that the lotus flower is symbolic of the human struggle for enlightenment. Most of us grow and live in the darkness of the muddy waters, not once breaking the surface.

But those of us who seek enlightenment may grow tall, eventually break the water, blossom into the Lotus.

Lotus flower tattoos make for amazingly attractive tattoos. Not only do they represent our spiritual struggle but the eight petals also symbolize the eightfold path of Buddhism.

What Does an Om/Aum Tattoo Mean?

One of the core disciplines of Buddhist practice is meditation and mindfulness. Through daily mindfulness, one may rid themselves of desires. As desires are selfish in nature, getting rid of them ends one cause of our suffering.

Aum is a Sanskrit word that has great meaning and originates in the Vedic scriptures from 1500 BC. It represents the sound of the universe and all of reality.

By making the sound, you are invoking the sound of the universe as it came into being from the void. Thus, it is a primal sound used during meditation to produce a certain state of mind and being.

Though it is most closely associated with Hinduism, Aum is also central in Buddhist meditative practice too. The Sanskrit symbol is highly recognizable and makes for a nice-looking tattoo as well.

It may also be used alongside other Buddhist symbols, such as the sitting Buddha and the lotus flower.

Should You Get a Buddha Tattoo?

Because Buddhism is for all people, a Buddha tattoo may suit those who are seeking truth and personal enlightenment.

It may also suit those who have had an experience that has changed them and placed them on a path to finding out the truth of themselves and how they can achieve enlightenment.

A Buddhist tattoo represents love, the search for truth, and the journey to enlightenment. It speaks of community values and caring for others compassionately.

It means that you are committed to not just understanding and ending your own suffering but also not causing others around you to suffer.

It’s important to understand that Buddhist tattoos may be considered disrespectful by some people in certain cultures. Though Buddhism was never founded as a religion, some cultures consider it at the very core of their religious practices.

If you want to get a Buddha or Aum tattoo, you need to understand why you are getting it and have a profound connection to it. Used just for decoration, a Buddha or Aum tattoo may be offensive to some people.

Given the global importance of Buddhism, it makes better sense to get such a tattoo if you have a much deeper understanding and appreciation of Buddhism.

Types of Buddha Tattoos

Buddha has been depicted in many different ways throughout the centuries following his death. In fact, there are over one hundred different Buddha types that mean different things, including:

  • The Sitting Buddha: Buddha in the lotus position with one hand in his lap and the other pointing to the ground represents his moment of becoming enlightened.
  • The Walking Buddha: Most depictions of Buddha are seated but the walking Buddha represents inner beauty and grace.
  • Nirvana: Buddha lying on his right side on a table shows him just before his earthly death and represents an escape from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
  • Meditating Buddha: Once again seated in the lotus position and with both hands resting in his lap, this Buddha symbolizes a search for meaning and serenity in one’s life.


Buddhism is one of the world’s greatest philosophies and meditations on understanding and ending human suffering on earth. The unique story of Prince Siddhartha Gautama is both emotionally moving and appealing to millions of people worldwide.

Buddhist and Aum tattoos can look amazing but it’s wise to always understand your relationship to it and why you are having it inked on your body.

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